It has given loud voices to many that can now operate and communicate at a global level. This phenomenon is growing exponentially and is changing the world much faster than most institutions can respond. It is radically changing how we work and what work we do.
This transition has already directly and indirectly caused social upheaval in many Western Countries as the reduction of friction between capital, humans and countries continue in a globalizing trend. As public companies invest in efficiency innovations, their profits and value have significantly increased. This however has led to a decrease in many types of jobs and a freeze or decline in salaries in many industries. This process started slowly somewhere around the 1960s, and has been speeding up ever since. The process was once thought just to attack lower skilled work, however we are starting to see higher skilled work being placed under the pressure of disruptive innovations as well. Vinod Kholsa recently stated that 80% of all IT jobs can and will be automated in the coming decade. Since public companies have a mandate to increase shareholder value, companies will continue to invest in efficiency and the trend will continue. Work is drastically changing!
These changes to work will have ramifications on education, because the two are intricately intertwined. Students entering elementary school today will find a very different world when they are 25 years old. There is a very high probability that much of the world will be exponentially different. This is very difficult to appreciate, because if you are like me, it is hard to perceive anything that grows exponentially without concrete experiments. See quick thought experiment below:
(If I were to offer $1 million USD today or I told you I would take a penny, double it everyday and take the results and double that every day, giving you the total at the end of 31 days. Which would you take? Work it out and see how you feel at the end)
This may also be the first generation, where younger cohorts have generally more expertise with some important technological advances than the generation ahead of them. Students today have a greater opportunity to access exponentially more information than their parents’ generation before them, and all without the emotional maturity and wisdom that comes with age and experience.
I don’t know for sure, however I would be willing to bet that this is the first time in human history that this has happened. In the past children always depended on their elders to explain and map out their cultural interpretation of the world and the adult life they might expect. In many parts of the world this is no longer true and this change is happening globally.
We are now preparing our children for a future that has become increasingly hard to predict, where they may know more about some important new technologies than we do.
Over the last 18 years I have been fortunate enough to have had an “adventurous” career path. I have been a teacher at an inner city school in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, also at one of the world's top shelf private schools. I have been a technology scout for the Fortune 500, looking for the same technologies alluded to above. I have lived among the poor and the wealthy, and I have succeeded and failed as an entrepreneur. Here are three important things I have learned from those experiences, that I think are really important for children, as they face off with a very different tomorrow.
3 things to guide your child through the rapid societal transition
As technology continues to advance at an exponential pace, the value of content acquisition (memorization of facts) will significantly decrease as more content is stored in external memory, and will increasingly be called up at the intersection of all connected devices by less clunky means that today (mobile phone).
This will give rise to higher value being placed on emotional intelligence, moral intelligence and the ability to be more creative. Three key concepts to aid these points:
The first of the universal themes that children need to be focused on is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of non judgemental attention to the internal and external occurring in the present moment. Harvard based research studies have indicated that the practice of mindfulness is correlated with well being, stress reduction, reduced reactivity and overall mental clarity. In the age of information, there is a massive amount of data and stimulation bombarding children. It is very important that stress reduction techniques are taught to school aged children to deal with increasing stress level related threats, real or imagined, and to the deluge of information as it converges with more content and uncertainty.
The second theme that children need to be focused on is pattern recognition. The late Dr. Will Joel Friedman, a clinician that worked with adults and children said” Whether you call it problem solving, trouble shooting, or issue spotting, pattern recognition is undoubtedly a key to success in doing anything well.”
And according to Marine Biologist William Graham “There are patterns in the dynamic behavior of family life, a traffic jam, or moving with a crowd of people at a football game. There are invisible interdependencies within coral reefs or food chains or the Internet. Our mental processes and the way we think are also patterned. These intellectual patterns are templates upon which we organize our thinking about processes that take place in the world”
Pattern recognition is extremely important, because it allows a person to match what they are experiencing now, with what they have experienced before. It also encourages finding relationships between the two, that allows one to strategically act on the situation or phenomenon observed.
When you and I went to school content memorization was the only gateway to school success. The more you could remember at the time of testing, the better grade you received. The grade acted as a social communication tool, that gave adults a fuzzy indication of your ability and potential future.
Between now and 2030 however, we will have orders of magnitude more information available to us in less clunky external devices. Children will really need to know how to ask the right questions to direct their thinking and sift through all of the information to achieve the outcomes that they desire. They will also need to know that asking questions is a legitimate measure of the value they can contribute. Many adults still focus children solely on content memorization as the key to intelligence, with limited focus on the form of asking essential questions. Because of artificial intelligent advancements, understanding the types of questions to ask will become much more important than having all the answers memorized. This is a very uncomfortable truth for parents, teachers and many adults!
Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment section below.